Oracle A reader of signs

The blackbird runs nervously in
quick staccato steps, yellow beak
thrust forward, then stops,
cocks its ear to the ground, then runs
hurriedly again.

Ancient, she
sits next to the spring.
The water appears suddenly
at the surface of the earth like
a music which steps
into the world
but reluctantly, beginning
over and over

again, rehearsing
in a whisper the faint sounding
sibilants of an almost vanished
tongue. She listens, but
knows not from where the water comes.

Cool, clear, constant
in its flow, the water is un-
touched by rain, snow or summer sun.

Watching, swaying back and forth, she
places her open hand above
a stream of minute
whirlpools, then looks down into the
swirling throat of the
largest, turning her
arm swiftly in a counter gyre,
murmuring something.

all but inaudible.
She leans forward and pinches off
a sprig of watercress, tasting
the stem's peppery
brassica, then swallowing the white


The men gather around in a
tight circle watching
the one, who, seated on the ground,
tosses the sticks. They all breathe in
with a gasp, their hands
raised into the air,
then pointing down, quickly, lifting
patterns up into

terse talk of
meaning. The man in their middle
slowly traces a form in the sand.

Out of the river,
a turtle rises and crawls to
land, head, neck fully extended
as if it had been from
shore since before the beginning of time.

The colorful display flashes
as the three men watch the
numbers turn all but instantly
into black figures. The clever talk
and laughter stop as
the message in bold
script steps down from top to bottom,
predicting opportunity, but

great risk...
they must move quickly.

Crack goes the shell, the
heat of the fire fracturing its
underside into myriad
storylines, waiting,
like a hand, to be deciphered and read.

Crash goes the code, the
cold of the night bifurcating
into myriad losses,
everywhere, losses,
like a terrible wind, taking all in its stead.

"All roads lead to the hidden center,"
begins the prophecy. "Very
From there, proceed with
the greatest caution,
Follow in steps of two's and three's."

Reading from her guide,
someone had written quickly in the margin:

"The yarrow stems ought to be gathered
come late summer; it
grows frequently to the side of
busy roads, on poor soils, in
patches, much space between
completely erect single
stems which are woody and almost square.
The white, sometimes pink,

flowers arrange themselves in tight
umbels to rhythms measured in fours,
while the delicate leaves
of many tiny feathers
spiral up around the
stem as a crow calls,
in neat couplets of five
against of two. A powerful plant,

it should
be used with—."

The blackbird runs nervously in
quick staccato steps, yellow beak
thrust forward, then stops,
cocks its ear to the ground, then runs
hurriedly again,
a different direction;
it too is confused about the
days, singing now

with hard frozen snow
on the ground.

A fish, (was it a
small trout?) nibbles at the surface
of the quiet pool and is gone,
ripples ringing in the
clear spring water...How did it happen?

Crash goes the code;
Crack goes the shell, the
cold of the night,
myriad storylines, waiting,
like a hand, taking all, taking all...

How did it happen?
She looks and sees...
She looks and sees...
Before, after,

It took the
whole world
by surprise.

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